The Heart of a Shepherd

Note from Jesus

Dear Precious Disciple,

Paul was finally on his way back to Jerusalem. His trip had been delayed because of the plots against his life. So he had gone back through Macedonia on his way to Troas instead of going to the province of Asia or straight to Syria. He also wanted to be with people he knew, loved, and trusted.

He departed for Troas alone. He had sent Luke and his companions, along with the representatives from the congregations in Macedonia and Greece, ahead of him. These men were traveling with the special contributions from their congregations for needy brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. Rather than go back through Ephesus where enemies were planning to kill him, Paul sent word for the Ephesian elders, the older male leaders of the church, to meet him at Miletus.

This meeting was full of emotion. Paul reminded these brothers of his own way of life and how much he risked to share the good news of the kingdom with them. He reminded them that he personally taught them in their homes and in public venues. He hadn’t changed his message to protect himself but shared everything they needed to hear.

Paul told the elders that despite knowing he faced danger, arrest, and persecution, he had to go to Jerusalem. His life was not worth anything to him if he did not fulfill his calling:

The only value I [Paul] place on my life is that I may finish my race, that I may fulfill the ministry that Jesus our King has given me, that I may gladly tell the good news of God’s grace.

He warned the Ephesian elders he would not see them again. He also warned them, as shepherds of the church that I bought with My blood, that false teachers would try to mislead the people — the flock of the Father — under their care. Through the emotion of the moment, he wanted them to recognize their high calling and feel their great responsibility.

In this meeting with its deep emotion, Paul charged these leaders to be good shepherds — pastors. He told them to watch out for each other. He told them to shepherd and protect the flock of My sheep entrusted to their care. They must serve selflessly as Paul had served them. Then with a prayer filled with tears, these beloved brothers walked Paul to his ship and said goodbye.

A disciple’s life is filled with goodbyes. Some of these goodbyes are the inevitable ones when losing someone in death. The loss hurts, but if that person is one of My disciples, the parting is only temporary. Some of these goodbyes are necessary because of My call on a disciple’s heart to fulfill a mission for Me. While this parting may lead to a final goodbye on earth, I can assure you that no one who faithfully does work in My name will lose his or her reward. Victory is assured. Reunion is certain. The future of each faithful servant is directly connected to My future. So while goodbyes may be filled with tears, remember that they are also filled with My promises of victory and reunion!

Verses to Live

Please read through these verses several times. On the first pass, notice the language of deep emotion and recognize how important it was for Paul to share this final message with these church leaders. The second time, look at the examples Paul gave of selfless ministry in his own life to guide these shepherds in their leadership. Finally, feel the strong pull of Paul’s sense of mission as it led him to face hardship and difficulties. As you read through this the final time, ask yourself what you are called to do with such emotion, urgency, and conviction!

Again Paul wanted us to split up. He wanted to go by land by himself [from Troas] while we went by ship to Assos. There he came on board with us, and we sailed on to Mitylene. From there we sailed near Chios, passing by it the next day, docking briefly at Samos the day after that, then arriving at Miletus the following day. This route kept us safely out of Ephesus and didn’t require Paul to spend any time at all in Asia, since he wanted to arrive in Jerusalem quickly — before Pentecost, he hoped.

In Miletus he sent word to the church in Ephesus, asking the elders to come down to meet with him. When they arrived, he talked with them.


We will have many memories of our time together in Ephesus; but of all the memories, most of all I want you to remember my way of life. From the first day I arrived in Asia, I served the Lord with humility and tears, patiently enduring the many trials that came my way through the plots of my Jewish opponents. I did everything I could to help you; I held nothing back. I taught you publicly, and I taught you in your homes. I told everyone the same message — Jews and Greeks alike — that we must turn toward God and have faith in our Lord Jesus the Anointed. Now I feel that the Holy Spirit has taken me captive. I am being led to Jerusalem. My future is uncertain, but I know — the Holy Spirit has told me — that everywhere I go from now on, I will find imprisonment and persecution waiting for me. But that’s OK. That’s no tragedy for me because I don’t cling to my life for my own sake. The only value I place on my life is that I may finish my race, that I may fulfill the ministry that Jesus our King has given me, that I may gladly tell the good news of God’s grace. I now realize that this is our last good-bye. You have been like family in all my travels to proclaim the kingdom of God, but after today none of you will see my face again. So I want to make this clear: I am not responsible for your destiny from this point on because I have not held back from telling you the purpose of God in all its dimensions.

Here are my instructions: diligently guard yourselves, and diligently guard the whole flock over which the Holy Spirit has given you oversight. Shepherd the church of God, this precious church which He made His own through the blood of His own Son. I know that after I’ve gone, dangerous wolves will sneak in among you, savaging the flock. Some of you here today will begin twisting the truth, enticing disciples to go your way, to follow you. You must be on guard, and you must remember my way of life among you. For three years, I have kept on, persistently warning everyone, day and night, with tears. So now I put you in God’s hands. I entrust you to the message of God’s grace, a message that has the power to build you up and to give you rich heritage among all who are set apart for God’s holy purposes. Remember my example: I never once coveted a single coin of silver or gold. I never looked twice at someone’s fine clothing. No, you know this: I worked with my own two hands making tents, and I paid my own expenses and my companions’ expenses as well. This is my last gift to you, this example of a way of life: a life of hard work, a life of helping the weak, a life that echoes every day those words of Jesus our King, Who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Once again, imagine this scene: As Paul finishes speaking, he kneels down; and we all join him, kneeling. He prays, and we all join him, praying. There’s the sound of weeping, and then more weeping, and then more still. One by one, we embrace Paul and kiss him, our sadness multiplied because of his words about this being our last good-bye. We walk with him to the ship, and he sets sail.

(Acts 20:13-38)

Response in Prayer

Father, please help me to discern Your call for me and help me to live it with passion as Paul did. I want my life to count for Your kingdom. I want my influence to fulfill Your plans for me. I want to live selflessly for Jesus, in Whose name I ask this prayer and pray for the power and strength of the Holy Spirit to help me. Amen.

‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.